Treating Stage 3 Lung Cancer

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7 Things to Know About Stage 3 Lung Cancer

  • There’s a lot to learn about stage 3 lung cancer.
    When you receive a diagnosis of stage 3 lung cancer, you may be rightfully concerned. As you grapple with your diagnosis, it’s important to devote some time to understanding the different stages of lung cancer. Stage 3 lung cancer is a serious diagnosis, but you do have options when it comes to treatment and management of your condition.

  • 1. Stage 3 cancer is considered advanced.
    Doctors designate the tumor stage for every cancer--that is, a number that indicates how much it’s spread throughout the body. Understanding the different stages of lung cancer may help you better understand your specific diagnosis. One of the most important things to understand about stage 3 lung cancer is that experts consider it to be an advanced stage of cancer. That means the malignant cancer cells have spread from the lungs to other places in the body, such as the lymph nodes, heart, trachea, esophagus or other organs and tissues near the lungs.

  • 2. Stage 3 lung cancer affects your lymph nodes.
    Lymph node involvement is a key part of understanding the different stages of lung cancer. Stage 3 lung cancer is cancer that has spread to some of your lymph nodes. It can spread to some of the lymph nodes near your collarbone, or it might invade the lymph nodes in the space between your lungs. Sometimes, the cancer will only affect lymph nodes on one side of the body, but it can affect lymph nodes on both sides.

  • 3. Symptoms can vary.
    Unfortunately, stage 3 lung cancer can bring a whole host of unpleasant symptoms. Your symptoms could include a persistent cough, chest pain, wheezing, and unexplained weight loss. You might find that it hurts to breathe, or you may occasionally cough up some blood. You may also experience other symptoms or side effects from treatment, such as nausea and fatigue. Don’t be afraid to talk to your healthcare team about your symptoms. They may have some suggestions for managing or reducing the impact on you and helping you maintain a satisfactory quality of life.

  • 4. You have treatment options.
    Even with an advanced cancer like stage 3 lung cancer, you do have treatment options. Depending on how advanced your cancer is, your oncologist might recommend a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy—and possibly also surgery. The specifics will depend on the size and location of your tumor(s), as well as your overall health and any lymph node involvement.

  • 5. Immunotherapy treatments hold promise.
    Researchers continue to develop new treatments, and immunotherapy currently offers the most promise for those with advanced lung cancer. Cancer cells have mechanisms to help them hide from your immune system, but new immunotherapy drugs prevent cancer cells from doing this, effectively assisting the immune system in identifying and targeting tumors. Currently, only one immunotherapy drug, durvalumab (Imfinzi), is approved to treat stage 3 lung cancer for people who meet the following criteria: their tumors can’t be removed surgically, and their cancer hasn’t progressed after being treated with chemotherapy and radiation.

  • 6. The five-year survival rate varies.
    The five-year survival rate refers to the percentage of people who are alive five years after diagnosis. The five-year survival rate for people with stage 3 lung cancer varies. The American Lung Association puts the average five-year survival rate for people with stage 3A non-small cell lung cancer at about 36%. People with stage 3B lung cancer, which is more advanced than stage 3A, have an estimated five-year survival rate of about 26%. But everyone’s case is different.

  • 7. You may be eligible for a clinical trial.
    You may be a candidate for a clinical trial for a new type of therapy or combination of therapies to address your cancer. Talk to your doctor about finding and applying to be in a clinical trial or contact the National Cancer Institute for a current list of open trials. You may have to meet certain conditions, but it’s worth investigating.

Stage 3 Lung Cancer Information | Lung Cancer
  1. Chalmers AW, et al. Immunotherapy after chemoradiotherapy in stage III non-small cell lung cancer: a new standard of care? Journal of Thoracic Disease. 2018 Mar; 10(3): 1198–1200.
  2. Confronting Stage 3 Lung Cancer with Immunotherapy. American Association for Cancer Research.
  3. FDA expands approval of Imfinzi to reduce the risk of non-small cell lung cancer progressing. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  4. Ha D and Videtic GM. Management of Stage III Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Cleveland Clinic Center for Continuing Education.
  5. Lung Cancer Basics. American Lung Association.
  6. Treatment Clinical Trials for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. National Cancer Institute.
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Last Review Date: 2019 Jan 18
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